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Friday, December 7, 2007       Free Headline Alerts

China poised to take over U.S. base at Ecuador's invitation

Ecuador’s president has offered the Chinese government an airbase currently serving as one of the last U.S. military outposts in South America.

An Air Force E-3 Sentry lands at the U.S. base airport in Manta, Ecuador, one of the U.S. military's last outposts in South America. (AP/Dolores R. Ochoa)      
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said during his recent visit to China that he would offer Beijing a lease on the Manta Airport, the presidential website reported last week.

Currently, Manta is used by U.S. military forces for operations. The contract is up in 2009 and Correa will not renew it, a transport and public works ministry communications official told BNamericas.

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Correa said access to the air base is part of a plan for Manta to become a “doorway” for China’s entry to Latin America.

Air base operations are limited to one building, but it shares the runway with the city's Eloy Alfaro international airport terminal.

Terminales del Ecuador, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings, is already operating Manta’s port. Government officials have already spoken of additional Chinese investment for such projects as a rail system. Hutchison has close ties to communist leaders in Beijing and also operates ports at both ends of the Panama Canal.

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